FANDOM A gang is a group of people who, through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage, share a common identity.[1] In current usage it typically denotes a criminal organization or else a criminal affiliation. In early usage, the word gang referred to a group of workmen. In the United Kingdom the word is still often used in this sense, but it later underwent pejoration. The word gang often carries a negative connotation; however, within a gang which defines itself in opposition to mainstream norms, members may adopt the phrase as a statement of identity or defiance.

The word gang derives from the past participle of Old English gan, meaning "to go". It is cognate with Old Norse gangr,[2] meaning "journey."[3]


[show]*1 History

[edit] HistoryEdit

A wide variety of gangs, such as The Order of Assassins, Adam the Leper's gang, Penny Mobs, Indian Thugs, Chinese Triads, Snakehead, Japanese Yakuza, Irish mob, Pancho Villa's Villistas, Dead Rabbits, American Old West outlaw gangs, Bowery Boys, Jewish mafia, Russian mafia, and Italian Mafia crime families have existed for centuries. For hundreds of years gangs of Thugs, usually numbering between 20 and 50 men, roamed the roads of India looking for victims for Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. According to some estimates the Thuggees murdered 1 million people between 1740 and 1840.[4]

Many poor orphans in Victorian London survived by joining pick pocketing gangs controlled by adult criminals. At the beginning of the 19th century, child criminals in Britain were punished in the same way as adults. They were sent to adult prisons, transported to the various Australian penal colonies, flogged, and sentenced to death for crimes such as petty theft.[5][6][7]

The first street gang in the United States, the 40 Thieves, began around the late 1820s in New York City. In 1850, New York City recorded more than 200 gang wars fought largely by youth gangs.[8] All the major cities of Victorian England in the late 19th century had gangs.[9][10] Chicago had over 1,000 gangs in the 1920s.[11] These early gangs were known for many criminal activities, but in most countries could not profit from drug trafficking prior to drugs being made illegal by laws such as the 1912 International Opium Convention and the 1919 Volstead Act. Gang involvement in drug trafficking increased during the 1970s and 1980s, but some gangs continue to have minimal involvement in the trade.[12]

[edit] Current numbersEdit

[1][2]Mara Salvatrucha suspect bearing gang tattoos is handcuffed. In 2004, the FBI created the MS-13 National Gang Task Force to combat gang activity in the United States. A year later, the FBI helped create National Gang Intelligence Center.In the United States in 2006 there were approximately 785,000 active street gang members, according to the National Youth Gang Center.[13]

Los Angeles County is considered the Gang Capital of America, with an estimated 120,000 (41,000 in the City) gang members[14] although Chicago actually has a higher rate of gang membership per capita than Los Angeles. Also, the state of Illinois has a higher rate of gang membership (8-11 gang members per 1,000 population) than California (5-7 gang members per 1,000 population).[15] There were at least 30,000 gangs and 800,000 gang members active across the USA in 2007.[16][17] About 900,000 gang members lived "within local communities across the country," and about 147,000 were in U.S. prisons or jails in 2009.[18] By 1999, Hispanics accounted for 47% of all gang members, Blacks 31%, Whites 13%, and Asians 6%.[19]

Tribal leaders say Native American communities are being overwhelmed by gang violence and drug trafficking.[20] A Dec. 13, 2009 The New York Times article about growing gang violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation estimated that there were 39 gangs with 5,000 members on that reservation alone.[21] Navajo country recently reported 225 gangs in its territory.[22]

There are between 25,000 and 50,000 gang members in Central America's El Salvador.[23]

The Mexican drug cartels have as many as 100,000 foot soldiers.[24]

More than 1,000 gangs were known to be operating in the UK in 2009.[25]

The FBI estimates the size of the four Italian organized crime groups to be approximately 25,000 members and 250,000 affiliates worldwide.[26]

The Russian, Chechen, Ukrainian, Georgian, Armenian, and other former Soviet organized crime groups or "Bratvas" have many members and associates affiliated with their various sorts of organized crime but a rough number has not been estimated.

The Yakuza are among one of the largest crime organizations in the world. As of 2005, there are some 102,400 known members in Japan.[27]

Hong Kong's Triads include up to 160,000 members in the 21st century.[28] It was estimated that in the 1950s, there were 300,000 Triad members in Hong Kong.[29]

[edit] Notable examplesEdit

[3][4]A Mara Salvatrucha gang member with a tattoo showing his gang membership.Perhaps the best known criminal gangs are the Italian Cosa Nostra, commonly known as the Mafia.[30] The Napolitan Camorra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, the Sardinian kidnappers or Anonima Sarda and the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita are similar Italian organized gangs.

Other criminal gangs include the Russian Mafia, the Serbian mafia, the Israeli Mafia, the Albanian Mafia, Mexican[31] and Colombian drug cartels, the Indian Mafia, the Chinese Triads, the Irish Mob, the Corsican mafia, the Japanese Yakuza, the Jamaican-British Yardies, the Malaysian Mamak Gang, the Turkish Mafia, British Crime Families and other crime syndicates.[32]

On a lower level in the criminal gang hierarchy are street gangs in the United States, such as the Sureños, Norteños, Crips, Bloods, Nazi Lowriders, Latin Kings, Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples. Biker gangs (such as the Hell's Angels) and white power skinhead gangs are also notable.

[edit] Types and structureEdit

Many types of gangs make up the general structure of an organized group.[33]

There are street gangs, which are people with similar backgrounds and motivations.[34] The term “street gang” is commonly used interchangeably with “youth gang,” referring to neighborhood or street-based youth groups that meet “gang” criteria. Miller (1992) defines a street gang as “a self-formed association of peers, united by mutual interests, with identifiable leadership and internal organization, who act collectively or as individuals to achieve specific purposes, including the conduct of illegal activity and control of a particular territory, facility, or enterprise."[35]

Understanding the structure of gangs is a critical skill to defining the types of strategies that are most effective with dealing with them, from the at-risk youth to the gang leaders.[36] Not all individuals who display the outward signs of gang membership are actually involved in criminal activities. An individual's age, physical structure, ability to fight, willingness to use violence, and arrest record are often principal factors in determining where an individual stands in the gang hierarchy; now money derived from criminal activity and ability to provide for the gang also impacts the individual’s status within the gang. The structure of gangs varies depending primarily on size which can range in size from five or ten to several thousand. Many of the larger gangs break up into smaller groups, cliques or sub-sets. The cliques typically bring more territory to a gang as they expand and recruit new members. Most gangs operate informally with leadership falling to whoever takes control; others have distinct leadership and are highly structured, much like a business or corporation.

Matthew O’Deane, Ph.D.,[36] has identified five primary steps of gang involvement applicable to the majority of gangs in the world; at risk, associates, members, hardcore members and leaders.

Step one is “At Risk” or “Peripheral”, these kids are not considered gang members by law enforcement, but they know gang members and may associate with them on a casual or limited basis, mostly watching and imitating the older gang members. They are getting close to an age where they might decide to join the gang. They may like and admire the gang members in the neighborhood and the gang lifestyle, but do not participate in the gang’s criminal activity. This group is generally between 7 and 9 years old, but can range from 5 to 16 years old in some cases; this group should be the primary target of gang prevention programs. Many kids in this classification choose alternatives to the gang life and never join a gang. The key is to feed off of those successes and replicate the positive results in the areas that have the largest concentration of at risk youth.

Step two are “Associates” or “Affiliates”, these kids associate with gang members on a regular basis and tend to consider gang life normal and acceptable. They find certain things in common with gang members and are seriously thinking about joining the gang. Some associates consider themselves members, even if they have not yet been formally initiated. This person is commonly called a “Wanna Be”, “Pee Wee”, “Baby Gangster” or “Wigger”; many may claim to back up the gang if confronted by law enforcement. They may act like, walk like, talk like, and dress like gang members and will tend to socialize with them. These associates are sometimes used by older gang members to do specific tasks, such as serving as lookouts, runners, or for writing graffiti. This group typically lacks direction and may drift in and out of the gang depending on the current activities of the gang. This person is generally between the ages of 9 and 13, but can range from 7 to 18 years old in some cases. It is often difficult to distinguish an associate from a member by looking at them. The difference is in their commitment to the gang.

Step three is the “Gang member”, this person associates almost exclusively with other gang members to the exclusion of family and former friends. They have shifted their loyalty from their family to their gang. This person participates in gang crimes and most of the gang’s activities. They make up the bulk of a gang’s membership and are held responsible for protection of the gangs turf and fellow gang members. This person is generally between the ages of 14 and 20 years old, but can range from 11 to 40 years old in some cases. The gang member has a much more significant attachment to the gang mentality or code when compared to an associate.

Step four is the “Hard Core Gang Member”, this gang member has become totally committed to the gang and gang lifestyle, commonly referred to as an “OG” or Original Gangster or “Veterano”. They usually reject any value system other than that of his/her gang and their life revolves around the gang. This member typically has been arrested and been through the justice system. This person will commit any crime or act of violence to further the goals and objectives of the gang. This person is usually in his/her late teens or early 20’s extending into their 30’s in some cases.

Step five is the “Gang Leader”, these members are the upper echelons of the gang’s command. This gang member is probably the oldest in the group and likely has an extensive criminal record and they often have the power to direct the gang’s activity, whether they are involved or not. In many jurisdictions, this person is likely a prison gang member calling the shots from within the prison system or is on parole. Often they distance themselves from the street gang activities and make attempts to appear legitimate, possibly operating a business that they run as fronts for the gang’s drug dealing or other illegal operations.[37]

Prison gangs are groups in a prison or correctional institution [38] for mutual protection and advancement. Prison gangs often have several "affiliates" or "chapters" in different state prison systems that branch out due to the movement or transfer of their members. The 2005 study neither War nor Peace: International Comparisons of Children and Youth in Organized Armed Violence studied ten cities worldwide and found that in eight of them, "street gangs had strong links to prison gangs".[39] According to criminal justice professor John Hagedorn, many of the biggest gangs from Chicago originated from prisons. From the St. Charles Illinois Youth Center originated the Conservative Vice Lords and Blackstone Rangers. Although the majority of gang leaders from Chicago are now incarcerated, most of those leaders continue to manage their gangs from within prison.[39]

Criminal gangs may function both inside and outside of prison, such as the Mexican Mafia, Folk Nation, and the Brazilian[31] PCC. During the 1970s, prison gangs in Cape Town, South Africa began recruiting street gang members from outside and helped increase associations between prison and street gangs.[40] In the USA prison gang Aryan Brotherhood is in organized crime outside prison.

[edit] Typical activitiesEdit

The United Nations estimates that gangs make most of their money through the drugs trade, they are thought to be worth £352bn in total.[41] The United States Department of Justice estimates there are approximately 30,000 gangs, with 760,000 members, impacting 2,500 communities across the United States.[42]

Gangs are involved in all areas of street-crime activities like extortion, drug trafficking,[13] both in and outside the prison system and theft. Gangs also victimize individuals by robbery and kidnapping.[43] Cocaine is the primary drug of distribution by gangs in America, which have used the cities Chicago, Cape Town, and Rio de Janeiro to transport drugs internationally.[44] Brazilian urbanization has driven the drug trade to the favelas of Rio. Often, gangs hire "lookouts" to warn members of upcoming law enforcement. The dense environments of favelas in Rio and public housing projects in Chicago have helped gang members hide from police easily.[45]

Street gangs take over territory or "turf" in a particular city and are often involved in "providing protection", often a thin cover for extortion, as the "protection" is usually from the gang itself, or in other criminal activity. Many gangs use fronts to demonstrate influence and gain revenue in a particular area.[46]

[edit] Gang violenceEdit

Further information: Fear of crimeFurther information: ViolenceGang violence refers to mostly those illegal and non-political acts of violence perpetrated by gangs against innocent people, property, or other gangs.[47] Throughout history, such acts have been committed by gangs at all levels of organization.[48] Nearly every major city was ravaged by gang violence at some point in its history.[49] Modern gangs introduced new acts of violence, which may also function as a rite of passage for new gang members.[50]

58 percent of L.A.’s murders were gang-related in 2006.[51] Reports of gang-related homicides are concentrated mostly in the largest cities in the United States, where there are long-standing and persistent gang problems and a greater number of documented gang members—most of whom are identified by law enforcement.[52]

[edit] MotivesEdit

Usually, gangs have gained the most control in poorer, urban communities and the Third World in response to unemployment and other services.[53] Social disorganization, the disintegration of societal institutions such as family, school, and the public safety net enable groups of peers to form gangs.[54] According to surveys conducted internationally by the World Bank for their World Development Report 2011, by far the most common reason people suggest as a motive for joining gangs is unemployment.[55]

Ethnic solidarity is a common factor in gangs. Black and Hispanic gangs formed during the 1960s in the USA often adapted nationalist rhetoric.[56] Both majority and minority races in society have established gangs in the name of identity: the Igbo gang Bakassi Boys in Nigeria defend the majority Igbo group violently and through terror, and in the United States, whites who feel threatened by minority rights have formed their own groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan. Responding to an increasing black and Hispanic migration, a white gang called Gaylords formed in Chicago.[57]

[edit] IdentificationEdit

Most gang members have identifying characteristics unique to their specific clique or gang.[58] The Bloods, for instance, wear red bandanas, the Crips blue, allowing these gangs to "represent" their affiliation. Any disrespect of a gang member's color by an unaffiliated individual is grounds for violent retaliation, often by multiple members of the offended gang. Tattoos are also common identifiers,[59] such as an '18' above the eyebrow to identify an 18th Street (gang) member. Tattoos help a gang member gain respect within their group, and mark them as members for life. They can be burned on as well as inked. Some gangs make use of more than one identifier, like the Sureños, who wear blue bandanas and have '13,' 'Xlll,' 'x3,' and 'southside' tattoos.[60] [5][6]Crip showing a gang signalMain article: Gang signalGangs often establish distinctive, characteristic identifiers including graffiti tags[61] colors, hand signals, clothing (for example, the gangsta rap-type hoodies), jewelry, hair styles, fingernails, slogans,[62] signs (such as the noose and the burning cross as the symbols of the Klan),[63] flags[64] secret greetings, slurs[specify], or code words and other group-specific symbols associated with the gang's common beliefs, rituals, and mythologies to define and differentiate themselves from rival groups and gangs.[65]

As an alternative language, hand-signals, symbols, and slurs in speech, graffiti, print, music, or other mediums communicate specific informational cues used to threaten, disparage, taunt, harass, intimidate, alarm, influence,[66] or exact specific responses including obedience, submission, fear, or terror. One study focused on terrorism and symbols states: "… Symbolism is important because it plays a part in impelling the terrorist to act and then in defining the targets of their actions."[67] Displaying a gang sign, such as the noose, as a symbolic act can be construed as "… a threat to commit violence communicated with the intent to terrorize another, to cause evacuation of a building, or to cause serious public inconvenience, in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience…an offense against property or involving danger to another person that may include but is not limited to recklessly endangering another person, harassment, stalking, ethnic intimidation, and criminal mischief."[68]

The Internet is one of the most significant mediums used by gangs to communicate in terms of the size of the audience they can reach with minimal effort and reduced risk.[69] The Internet provides a forum for recruitment activities, typically provoking rival gangs through derogatory postings, and to glorify their gang and themselves. Gangs are using the Internet to communicate with each other, facilitate criminal activity, spread their message and culture around the nation. As Internet pages like MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, AIM, and Facebook become more popular, law enforcement works to understand how to conduct investigations related to gang activity in an online or cyber environment. In most cases the police can and will get the information they need, however this requires police officers and federal agents to make formal legal requests for information in a timely manner, which typically requires a search warrant or subpoena to compel the service providers to supply the needed information. A grand jury subpoena or administrative subpoena, court order, search warrant; or user consent is needed to get this information pursuant to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, Title 18 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq. (ECPA). Just about every gang member has personal web page or some type of social networking internet account or chat room where they post photos and videos and talk openly about their gang exploits. The majority of the service providers that gang members use are free social networking sites that allow users to create their own profile pages, which can include lists of their favorite musicians, books and movies, photos of themselves and friends, and links to related web pages. Many of these services also permit users to send and receive private messages and talk in private chat rooms. Many times a police officer may stumble upon one of these pages, or an informant can get you into the local gang page, providing you a name and password to use to get in and explore, other times you do not have that option and will have to formally request the needed information. Most service providers have four basic types of information about its users that may be relevant to a criminal investigation; 1) basic identity/subscriber information supplied by the user in creating the account; 2) IP log-in information; 3) files stored in a user’s profile (such as “about me” information or lists of friends); and 4) user sent and received message content. It is important to know the law, and understand what exactly we can get service providers to do and what their capabilities are. It is also important to understand how gang members use the Internet and how we as the police can use their desire to be recognized and respected in their sub-culture against them.[69]

[edit] Gang membership in the US militaryEdit

Main article: Gang presence in the United States military

Gang members in uniform use their military knowledge, skills and weapons to commit and facilitate various crimes.

The FBI’s 2007 report on gang membership in the military states that the military's recruit screening process is ineffective, allows gang members/extremists to enter the military, and lists at least eight instances in the last three years in which gang members have obtained military weapons for their illegal enterprises.[70] "Gang Activity in the U.S. Armed Forces Increasing", dated January 12, 2007, states that street gangs including the Bloods, Crips, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Hells Angels, Latin Kings, The 18th Street Gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Mexican Mafia, Nortenos, Surenos, and Vice Lords have been documented on military installations both domestic and international although recruiting gang members violates military regulations.[71]

A January 2007 article in the Chicago Sun-Times reported that gang members in the military are involved in the theft and sale of military weapons, ammunition, and equipment, including body armor. The Sun-Times began investigating the gang activity in the military after receiving photos of gang graffiti showing up in Iraq. A 2006 Sun-Times article reports that gangs encourage members to enter the military to learn urban warfare techniques to teach other gang members.[72]

In 2006, Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator, said there is an online network of gangs and extremists, and that: "They're communicating with each other about weapons, about recruiting, about keeping their identities secret, about organizing within the military."[73]